Iceland can teach us how to be hygge


By Tom Taylor Deputy Features Editor

Tom Taylor explores the benefits of adopting a hygge lifestyle in our dreary student days.

The average winter temperature in Iceland is 0°C which is approximately two degrees below my second-year house. It also has the lowest population density of any country in Europe so it’s little surprise that snuggling up with a blanket in a cosy café is quite a popular pastime.

That act of snuggling up, perhaps accompanied by a warm mug of cocoa or the flickering of a candle, can be considered hygge (pronounced hoo-gah). The word ‘hygge’ originates from the Norwegian word for ‘well-being’ and it is generally associated with the Nordic countries of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland.

The 2018 World Happiness Report’s top five happiest countries in the world are Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland. Is this just because they are generally hygge countries? No. But it certainly has something to do with it.

The English translation of hygge would be something along the lines of ‘coziness’ or ‘homeliness’. Warm lighting, blankets, comfort food, woolly jumpers and a log fire would all fit into this definition. However, this is only half the meaning of hygge. There isn’t really an English word for the other half but think along the lines of laughing with a group of really close friends you’ve known for a long time or reminiscing about adventures and travels with your significant other. Hygge is inherently a social state of being where you share your warmth and cosiness with others.


Image: Tom Taylor / Epigram

As snow falls around us, it’s worth taking a few hygge tips from our European neighbors.

Wrap up warm on a hygge walk

Despite Iceland literally having the word ‘ice’ in its name, I underestimated how cold it was going to be. It was very, very cold. If there is an Icelandic equivalent of ‘brass monkeys’ then it was that. Nevertheless, it taught me an important lesson which is that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. So, if you're planning on going on a wintery walk up to the Suspension Bridge or exploring St Pauls - and I suggest you do - remember to wear your fluffiest hat, scarf and gloves. Going on a walk with no real purpose in mind is a really good way of practicing mindfulness so try and work it into your weekly routine.

Have a a hygge spa day

Balancing university, hobbies and a social life is incredibly difficult at the best of times. Sometimes you can forget to turn off and just enjoy some low-key relaxing. Icelanders often go to natural thermal spas, the most famous of which is the Blue Lagoon, to relax and unwind. Bristol may not have a naturally heated, visually stunning thermal lagoon, but a 15-minute train ride will get you to the historic and equally stunning Bath Spa. So, when your student loan drops, grab a few friends and have a hygge spa day. Or just have a bath with a candle or two and you can say you’ve basically been to Iceland.

Get everyone together for a weekly dose of hygge

A common complaint in student halls and houses is that there isn’t much time to spend time together. You may be all be living within the same four walls but never see each other, save for a quick hello and goodbye in the kitchen. If this sounds familiar, then perhaps try and organize a weekly dose of hygge for everyone. It could be a weekly movie night where you all congregate in a communal space with blankets and popcorn or a flat meal where you cook for each other. The most important thing is that your spending time together and if there is laughter and happiness, you’ve achieved a state of hygge.

Finding time to be hygge can be tricky but it is so important for your happiness. Anyone and everyone can be hygge and if you need inspiration, just look to Iceland.

Featured Image: Tom Taylor/ Epigram

Do you follow any hygge practices? Let us know!

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Tom Taylor

ex-Digital Editor | Twitter: @tomtay10r | Portfolio: